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Does sending in a 'nightwatchman' in Test cricket make any sense?

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Does sending in a 'nightwatchman' in Test cricket make any sense?

Post by Ivan on Sun May 12, 2013 3:02 pm

I’ve never understood the point of a 'nightwatchman' in Test cricket. For those who are not clear what that is, if a wicket falls near the end of a day’s play, a lower-order batsman is sent in to bat higher up the batting order than usual. His job is to take as much of the strike as possible, thus reducing the risk of the other batsman getting out before the close of play. Most, if not all, of Test-playing countries seem to adopt this practice, although when Steve Waugh was captain of Australia he refused to do so.

In my book, sending in a nightwatchman is illogical. If a lower-order batsman is thought to be able to survive the rest of the day, isn’t a higher-order batsman even more likely to do so? If the nightwatchman (or the other batsman) gets out, a higher-order batsman is usually sent in anyway, rather than a second nightwatchman. By moving the nightwatchman up the batting order, it means that the regular batsmen all drop down a place, increasing the likelihood that one of them will run out of partners at the end of the innings.

Assuming that the nightwatchman does survive, what happens on the next morning? If he’s soon out, that gives a fillip to the bowling side, starting the day with a quick wicket. If he doesn’t get out immediately and scratches around at the crease for some time, the batting side is likely to lose momentum.

If an innnings begins just a few overs before the end of the day, the two opening batsmen go out to bat. They're not 'protected' by one (or even two) nightwatchmen. If it's right for them to go out and bat, why not the other so-called batsmen when it's their turn?

If you’re a professional cricketer and batting is your livelihood, you ought to be able to bat out a few overs at the end of the day. Not to do so, and sending in an inferior player, smacks of cowardice and sends out the wrong signal to the other team. So many sports are played out in the mind; a competent batsman should just get out on the pitch and tell the opposing bowlers to bring it on!
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Re: Does sending in a 'nightwatchman' in Test cricket make any sense?

Post by oftenwrong on Sun May 12, 2013 6:02 pm

The "anchor-man" does not acquire that description by accident of birth.
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Re: Does sending in a 'nightwatchman' in Test cricket make any sense?

Post by Dan Fante on Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:05 am

Although I can see the logic of using nightwatchmen I think you raise some interesting points, Ivan. I suppose when it's the opening batsmen, they are specialists at facing the new ball so they would open the innings regardless of the time of day. With other 'specialist' batsmen that's not so much the case (although a no. 3 should also be adept at this). I also wonder why it's usually one of the 'nine, ten, Jacks' that gets sent in. Ritchie Benaud said that he would never send anyone normally lower down the order than a number 8 in as nightwatchman because if they bat at 9, 10 or 11 then they obviously aren't much cop. I also find it strange that England persist with Jimmy Anderson in that role when his confidence as a batsman seems to have deserted him of late.
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Re: Does sending in a 'nightwatchman' in Test cricket make any sense?

Post by oftenwrong on Tue Oct 29, 2013 10:18 am

"sending in an inferior player" may on the face of it sound like a daft idea at whatever stage of an innings, but adept "stone-walling" ought to be within the capacity of any player at Test-match level.
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Re: Does sending in a 'nightwatchman' in Test cricket make any sense?

Post by Dan Fante on Tue Oct 29, 2013 10:35 am

oftenwrong wrote:"sending in an inferior player" may on the face of it sound like a daft idea at whatever stage of an innings, but adept "stone-walling" ought to be within the capacity of any player at Test-match level.
Not sure even the most ardent Courtney Walsh would agree with that.
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Re: Does sending in a 'nightwatchman' in Test cricket make any sense?

Post by Ivan on Tue Oct 29, 2013 4:02 pm

During the series against Australia in the summer, England used Tim Bresnan as a ‘superior nightwatchman’ at Lord’s, but when a second batsman (if Prior justifies such a title) was out, Anderson was sent in as well. The result was that Broad and Swann, both of whom have some batting ability, went in at numbers 10 and 11 respectively.
 
(Talking of Richie Benaud – he’s now 83 and managed to drive his car into a brick wall in Sydney last week.)
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Re: Does sending in a 'nightwatchman' in Test cricket make any sense?

Post by Dan Fante on Tue Oct 29, 2013 4:13 pm

Ivan wrote:During the series against Australia in the summer, England used Tim Bresnan as a ‘superior nightwatchman’ at Lord’s, but when a second batsman (if Prior justifies such a title) was out, Anderson was sent in as well. The result was that Broad and Swann, both of whom have some batting ability, went in at numbers 10 and 11 respectively.
 
(Talking of Richie Benaud – he’s now 83 and managed to drive his car into a brick wall in Sydney last week.)
Good observation regarding what happened at Lord's, which sent a message to the Aussies that we were cautious about them, if not downright scared. It did turn out to be slightly ridiculous in that situation. Especially protecting Prior, given the form he was in. I felt we could have been more aggressive all summer. I'd take another 'boring' 3-0 this winter though Wink
And apparently Ritchie Benaud is fine after his car crash. He crashed his vintage Sunbeam Alpine which can't be too clever on the safety features, you'd have thought.
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